On October 21, 2018, the Los Angeles Lakers played against the Houston Rockets in a game that ended with lots of drama. Days before tip off the hot topic for the game was the home debut of LeBron James, who over the off season swapped the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency. But after the game, almost no one is talking about LeBron. All the fans and critics are pointing their attention towards the 4th quarter brawl between Rajon Rondo, Brandon Ingram, and Chris Paul.
In the fourth quarter, Lakers’ forward Brandon Ingram committed a foul against reigning NBA League MVP James Harden. After the foul all the players on the court came together in a heated argument with lots of pushing, shoving and yelling. As Ingram was being pulled away from the herd of players, just past half court, 4-time NBA all-star Rajon Rondo allegedly spit in the face of Chris Paul–2005’s Rookie of the year and an NBA all-star MVP, with 2 Olympic Gold medals. Paul reacted by pointing his finger in Rondo’s face and push his head backwards, scratching him across the eye. After this action by CP3, the punches came.
Rondo threw the first punch striking Paul in the face. Then Chris Paul threw a punch back and both kept swinging. When the rest of the players on the court grabbed hold of Paul and Rondo, in came Brandon Ingram with two thunderous punches to the head of Chris Paul.
All this happened with only 4 minutes and 13 seconds left on the clock, with the score 109-108 in favour of the Rockets. The Rockets then went on to punish the Lakers, outscoring them 21-11 in the remaining time. With the game ending 124-115 the brawl most certainly had a major impact, especially since the Lakers lost two starters, Brandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo, most likely Lebron’s number two and three options on the floor. When ejected, the only players who had more points than Rajon and Brandon on the Lakers were McGee and Ball, who, in the long stretch, did not provide much additional help.
There’s lots of speculation over whether or not the suspensions given to the players were fair. Chris Paul had the least amount of punishment, being suspended for 2 games, Rondo got 3 games, and Ingram got 4 games. Along with their suspensions, the players also got fines. Paul with the most received a $492,000 fine, Ingram was fined $200,000 and Rondo, with the least, received a $186,000 fine.
This isn’t the first time a fight has broken out on the court, of course. In a previous season, Serge Ibaka got into two altercations, both with punches being thrown. He was ejected and then suspended 1 game for a fist fight with Robin Lopez. In the other incident that occurred, he threw punches at James Johnson and was once again ejected and suspended 1 game. Comparing these punishments with the Lakers-Rockets fight shows that the punishments have been consistent. In Serge Ibaka’s fight only two punches were thrown in each but in the Lakers-Rockets fight there were around 8 punches thrown and Rondo spat on Paul.
In the case of Rajon Rondo I would say his punishment was pretty fair but it depends how you perceived the incident. Just before Rondo squared off against Paul, it seems that Rondo had spat in the face of Paul but some say it was accidental because he was wearing a mouth guard making it more difficult to do so. So if Rondo did intentionally spit, I think his suspension could have grown to 4 maybe even 5 games.
With Chris Paul, I think he got off a little easy since he had first scratched Rondo and started the punches. Also after Rondo struck him, CP3 landed 2 punches and tried to keep punching Rondo, but looking back to the other fight he didn’t do much damage compared to Ibaka. So at the most, maybe he could have gotten 1 more game suspension.
For Ingram, his actions pretty much justified the punishment. Ingram started the fight with the foul and then pushed Harden after the foul causing the other players to engage in arguments. Also after he was pulled away he then jumped back into the Rondo-Paul scuffle and attacked Chris Paul from behind, throwing two big bunches before again being pulled away.
After careful consideration, I think the NBA got this one right. Even though Serge Ibaka’s two fights only resulted in 1 game suspensions each, the fight that most recently happened had more punches and had two different occasions where players were fighting.
Looking to the future, I think the NBA should judge these situations based off of past fights and punishments to ensure the decisions fit the precedent. I looks like that’s what they did in this case.